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March 31, 2023

Live Oak, Christopher lacrosse teams having tremendous seasons

The Christopher-Live Oak boys lacrosse match on March 24 pitted a top-three team from the Gabilan Division and the front runner from the lower division. 

For right now, at least, the Acorns showed the chasm between the Gabilan and Mission is a rather wide one. 

Live Oak 12, Christopher 4. 

“A game like this is super fun because you have that cross city rivalry, so we really wanted to come out heavy for this,” Acorns coach Gavin Herr said. “I’m happy to get the ‘W’ in resounding fashion, but honestly, I was expecting more out of this and hope in the next contest we do a little better and really crank things up a bit.”

CHS entered the match at 6-0 but was facing a team from the upper division for the first time this season. 

“They’re really good, they’re big, they’re strong, they handle the ball well, they move the ball well, they do a lot of good stuff,” Cougars coach Clint Wheeler said. 

The CHS program has made a remarkable turnaround after not fielding a team for the last two seasons. A roster that includes 11 freshmen and three sophomores has exceeded expectations. Live Oak also has a roster filled with underclassmen, but the difference is sophomores like Luke Richey and Nolan Ledwith and juniors Colin Fisher and Colby Allen have been playing for a half-dozen years or more. 

Fisher had a match-high four goals and was one of seven different Live Oak players who scored. Richey had two goals and four assists, and Kenyen Castro finished with two goals. Richey leads the team in points and has been absolutely dynamite, highlighted by a six goal “sock trick” in a thrilling 9-8 overtime win over Salinas High on March 9. 

“Luke is an absolute stud,” Herr said. “He is a stallion. The kid runs hard and has a great shot. Our only issue with him is we need him to get a little bit more selfish. He is so happy to pass the ball away and give up a great look for a good look and that’s something I appreciate about him. But sometimes that good look is just good enough, especially if he’s taking the shot.”

Nowhere was that more apparent than late in the contest when Richey looked like a man possessed, corralling the ball at his 35 yard line before absorbing three hits and juking a couple of more defenders down the field en route to the CHS goal, where he came in and scored from a couple of yards out. 

The Acorns’ superior stickhandling and physicality was on display as they controlled the time of possession. However, Herr said the team must get off to faster starts to reach its potential. Live Oak led just 2-1 after the first quarter before outsourcing the Cougars 7-2 over the next two periods to take command.

“I was frustrated with the start and it’s been a consistent theme for our season where we come out very slow and lethargic in the first quarter,” Herr said. “But I was very happy with how we responded in the second and third.”

Wheeler said the Cougars have been led by Spencer Gorgulho, Payton Wheeler and Mathew Norman. Gorgulho has been averaging approximately four goals a game, Wheeler has excelled both offensively and defensively, and Norman has been strong on the attack.

Norman had two goals and Gorgulho and Sophia Robledo had one score each versus Live Oak. Robledo is one of two girls on CHS, which doesn’t field a girls lacrosse team. A starter who can flat-out play on attack and is strong with the ball, Robledo made a nice move and scored with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Clint Wheeler said Robledo has been a reliable player since the first day of practice and has more than held her own with the boys. 

“She walked out here and from Day One started putting moves on guys and started showing her stick skills,” Wheeler said. “She’s been solid from the beginning.”

Gorgulho has been Christopher’s starting quarterback for the last three years, and his skills on the gridiron have translated well to lacrosse. Same goes for Wheeler and midfielder Jermaine Thomas, who also had a standout soccer season and has proven to be the rare prep three-sport standout in today’s era.

Wheeler knows with such an inexperienced team, it’s going to take time for it to hit its stride. 

“With 12 freshmen there’s a steep learning curve so right now we’re just trying to take every game and learn from it,” he said. “We need our older guys to continue to lead this group.”

Wheeler has been encouraged by the team’s play and is confident they’ll keep improving.

“You’re disappointed with a loss because the score wasn’t what it should’ve been or what we would think it could’ve been, but I think a lot of that comes with age,” he said. “If we play them again down the road in the playoffs, I think it’ll be a little bit of a different game (closer score-wise).”

Live Oak has become the best team in the Morgan Hill/Gilroy/Hollister area, helped in part by Brad Ledwith starting the South County Outlaws club program in 2015. The kids who tried out and stuck with the sport have developed into experienced players. 

Colby Allen has a team-high 20 assists and is a top-notch facilitator. Goalie Blaine Barnes made a triumphant return after suffering a broken thumb in the season-opener against Mitty. 

“Blaine helped limit a team with a couple of really good shooters to four goals, so I was really happy with that,” Herr said. 

Defender Ryan Forbis filled in admirably at goalie in Barnes’ absence, collecting 33 saves in four games. Nolan Ledwith has earned Herr’s praise for his ability to force turnovers and smart and heady play on defense. Ledwith had nine ground balls against CHS. The attack has been superb with Richey, Fisher and Allen.

“My attack squad is laden with talent,” Herr said. “Colin is an absolute stud and he’s my other tree out there. Colby is lightning in a bottle. This kid is quick, fast and scores goals all over the place. If we just get those three to fire and score more, I think it makes our offense so much better.”

Luke Richey has developed into one of the best all-around players in the Pacific Coast League. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
CHS defender Payton Wheeler has provided the team with consistent and tough play. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Colby Allen follows through on a shot in the Acorns’ 12-4 win over the Cougars. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Mathew Norman scored two of the Cougars’ four goals in the loss to Live Oak. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

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